What Cote de Pablo and Mark Harmon Have in Common With Their ‘NCIS’ Characters

Cote de Pablo and Mark Harmon are well known for starring in the hit primetime procedural NCIS. Cote de Pablo — though departing a few years back to spread her wings in the biz — returned to NCIS this season as Agent Ziva David. Though still the butt-kicking former Mossad Agent with compassion and a commitment to what’s right, her motherly instincts came to the surface, as did some new anxieties. 

Cote de Pablo and Mark Harmon of NCIS
Mark Harmon and Cote de Pablo at the ‘NCIS’ press conference | Vera Anderson/WireImage

On the other hand, Mark Harmon has remained steadfast in his commitment to the series; he has been with NCIS since the start as Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs — the man in charge — and will likely be with the show until its end. 

In NCIS, Mark Harmon and Cote de Pablo boast a father-daughter dynamic — they both care deeply about one another and will risk their lives to protect each other. Mark Harmon’s Gibbs is both a confidante and a mentor to David. During an interview with BUILD, Cote de Pablo discussed her relationship with Mark Harmon, and what their real-life dynamic has in common with their on-screen one. 

‘NCIS’ star Cote de Pablo on her relationship with Mark Harmon 

Cote de Pablo sat down with BUILD Series to discuss her return to NCIS, and what it was like coming back to the show that catalyzed her career all these years later; more specifically, what it was like coming back to the man in charge: Mark Harmon. Cote de Pablo explained:

He’s [Mark Harmon] a friend mentor. He’s…like a father figure to me. And obviously, Ziva and Gibbs have that, but Cote and Mark have a little of that. He’s a very busy, famous man. And, so obviously, there are many months where you just don’t talk, but it’s really nice to know that — sometimes when you have friendships (and certainly in family that’s a given) — you can go time without talking. But, you’ve laid a foundation, a foundation that is solid. And, from that foundation, you can really go anywhere…

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Cote de Pablo explains that she has a relationship with Mark Harmon (and with Michael Weatherly) that no matter how much time passes, they remain close. They know they care about one another. And, like their characters in NCIS — who haven’t seen each other in years at the start of the most recent season — the bond never fades, the concern remains, and the love is always there. 

Cote de Pablo and Mark Harmon boast a relationship ‘forged in fire’

Cote de Pablo goes on to explain that “10 months of the year,” you’re working on the show — filming non-stop. And, some days are harder than others. You have to push through even when you may not really be up to it. 

Cote de Pablo explains that working on NCIS together is responsible for a relationship between her and Harmon that is “forged in fire..it’s intense.” And, if one thing remains true about NCIS, the character dynamics bloom in hardship — the intimacy develops in times of crisis. The interdependence shows itself when all is lost. 

And, in a fashion similar to Gibbs and Ziva, Cote de Pablo and Mark Harmon worked on a demanding set for years on end. Sweat, tears, and multiple action sequences later, they built a close-knit bond (just like their characters).